Related to today’s post about the Black Country, now there’s this.
The word “Cockney” is tossed about all too casually.
There’s always been a strict but simply rule about who gets to call themselves Cockney.
I hadn’t thought of this before, but it appears that urban development is taking its, er, toll:
The analysis reveals that the zone within earshot of the Bow Bells has shrunk significantly since 1851.
Back then the famous church bells could be heard from the City of London across Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets and into parts of Camden, Southwark, Newham and Waltham Forest.
In 2012, the chimes of St. Mary-le-Bow are only audible across a small patch covering just the City and Shoreditch, in which no maternity wards are located. This map reveals the remarkable difference in audibility levels. (…)
Linguistically the term is associated all over the world with Cockney rhyming slang, a 650-year-old colloquial dialect including phrases such as “apples and pears” meaning “stairs” and “china” from “china plate” for “mate”. This dialect is also dying out in the capital. Recent research shows that users of this type of speech are moving out of London, east and north towards Essex and Hertfordshire, while its place in the capital is being superseded by “Jafaican”, a hybrid street speech influenced by West Indian patois and Bangladeshi along with a few remnants of the original Cockney dialect.
To help save the Cockney and celebrate the role of the chimes throughout London’s history Collins – with the kind permission of St Mary-le-Bow Church – has made an MP3 recording of the famous Bow Bells available for download. This means that anyone with internet access can, at the vital moment, hit play and have their child born a Cockney, whether they enter the world in Camden, Colchester, or Calcutta.
The region in which “Cockneys” are thought to reside is not clearly defined. A common view is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. Although the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in the Blitz, they had fallen silent on 13 June 1940 as part of the British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. Before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when, by the “within earshot” definition, no “Bow-bell” Cockneys could be born.
Plus, some insist that at the same time outdoor noise is impeding the sound of the bells, the interior noise of television is actually spreading the accent itself.